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Research Projects and Collaborative Efforts

The Pico Mountain Observatory is located at 2225 m above sea level, close to the summit of the Pico Mountain in the Pico island in the Azores. The unique location allows to measure free tropospheric air masses originating often from North America and crossing the North Atlantic.
The station was established in 2001 by the late Richard Honrath and it has been running since then mostly during the summer seasons.
Currently measured atmospheric parameters include: carbon monoxide, ozone, non-methane hydrocarbons, meteo parameters, aerosol size distribution, and black carbon concentration.  In summer 2012 we installed additional aerosol instrumentation including: high volume samplers for aerosol chemical speciation, a nephelometer to measure total and backward aerosol scattering at three wavelengths, aerosol samplers for electron microscopy analysis and an optical particle counter. Sampling continued in Summer 2013 and the station will close for the season in mid October. The two projects (one funded by DOE, the other by the NSF)  include collaborators at the University of the Azores, Colorado University and the University of Illinois.

Nature highlights the station

Meteo data at Pico Mountain Observatory

Aging of Black Carbon during Atmospheric Transport: Understanding results from CARES and ClearfLo

(Funded by DOE)

CARES (Carbonaceous Aerosol and Radiative Effects Study - 2010) and ClearfLo (Clear Air for London - 2012) were two field campaigns aimed at studying aerosol properties in the atmosphere. We collected aerosols on several filters during both campaigns and our role in this project is that of analyzing these particles at the electron microscope to study their morphological properties and their mixing. We study aerosol properties by looking at their shape, their semi-quantitative elemental composition and the mixing of different particles types (e.g. dust with soot). We also focus our attention on carbonaceous aggregates (soot) and study their atmospheric processing and aging by estimating the coating on these aggregates by other substances, as well as by calculating their fractal-like properties. Under this project we will also participate in chamber experiments where we will attempt to reproduce different aerosol mixtures and morphologies that might mimic atmospheric conditions. This study will provide similar information to those studied during wildfires sampling as discussed in China et a. (2013).  

Ice Nucleation in the Contact Mode

(Funded by NSF)

The aim of this project is to measure the "ability" (efficiency) of different aerosol types and sizes to act as ice nucleators in the contact mode. One of our group's main goals in the project is to develop an acoustic levitation technique to allow for freezing single droplets in contactless conditions. A second principal goal is to investigate these nucleation processes with the use of optical techniques. 
Look at a video demonstration of the acoustic levitation of a small object in the Environmental Optics Lab at MTU (by Arin Nelson - physics undergraduate student)

MTU Turbulent Cloud Chamber: the MTU PI-Chamber

(Funded by NSF)

The objective of this project is to develop a large turbulent multiphase (water in the vapor, liquid and solid phase) reaction chamber to study clouds and aerosol interactions in a controlled turbulent environment. (in the picture on the side the chamber installation in March 2014)

The goals of the EOL group were/are to:

            • Participate in the development and operation of the chamber
            • Develop an hygrometer system based on a tunable diode laser
            • Develop a multiwavelength aerosol spectrometer to measure aerosol absorption and scattering using photoacoustic and nephelometery techniques

Supercontinuum Photoacousitc and Nephelometer Instrument

(Initially funded by the Excellence Research Fund - Seed Fund Program at MTU, currently funded by NSF)

The project aims at developing a multiwavelength photoacoustic and nephelometer spectrometer to measure aerosol optical properties integrating a phtoacoustic/nephelometer cell with our supercontinuum laser.
The projects include collaborators at the Desert Research Institute and the University of Nevada Reno

Quartz Enhanced Tuning Fork Photoacoustic Spectrometer

(Originally funded by NASA, currently unfunded but still ongoing)

The aim of the project was to get preliminary results on the possibility to using quartz enhanced photoacoustic techniques to measure aerosol absorption. Mat Hollinger, former master student together with Nicholas Black and especially with the fundamental contribution of Jordan Hagen, wrote a short report as partial fulfillment for his master degree in physics.